Last weekend we celebrated Easter, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies and revelations of God’s plan to save those who are His children. We celebrated the fact that Jesus went willingly to the cross and gave up His spirit in victory (not victimhood), was buried, and raised from the dead three days later.
Last weekend also kicked off Passover (Exodus 12), a celebration marking the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It is a remembrance of the freedom God offers from the tyrants of this world. Between Easter and Passover, it was a weekend full of remembering God’s character and exactly what He has done for His people.
Given all that was celebrated and commemorated last weekend, it may have seemed like odd timing for The New York Times to publish an op-ed proposing we “give up God.”
Odd, yes. Surprising, no.
In the op-ed by Shalom Auslander, the argument was made that God is no god to follow at all. He contended that God is mean and vicious because He punished and even killed some Egyptians for enslaving His people. He suggested that because God killed the captors of the Israelites, He can’t be trusted. Auslander makes the case (without saying it directly) that he is morally superior to God. Evidently, he would be a better god than God .Happy Easter and Chag Sameach.
As if that wasn’t enough to chew on, minutes after reading The New York Times op-ed, another story came my way. It seems the incredibly popular Chinese app, WeChat, has censored the word “Christ”. The social media app contends the word Christ “violates regulations… including but not limited to the following categories: pornography, gambling and drug abuse….”
But that’s not surprising since the Chinese Communist Party is also re-writing the Bible to “keep pace with the times.” (Perhaps read Revelation 22:18-19 before changing another word.) The revisions include adding “core socialist values” and providing an alternative ending to John 8:7-11, the account of the woman caught in adultery.
As we know from John 8, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They were ready to stone her. Jesus asked whoever was without sin to cast the first stone. The Pharisees all walked away, and Jesus told the woman He didn’t condemn her and charged her to go live a life without sin. That is John 8:7-11.
In the new version from China, it’s almost the same except after the Pharisees leave, Jesus stones the woman to death Himself and says, “I am also a sinner.” I guess if the Chinese Communist Party can’t ban Bibles, they will just re-write them to suit their purposes. I’m praying now for the eyes that read this counterfeit account. May they come know the true character of Jesus.
And I could continue with example after example of the reality that we live in a post-Christian culture and an anti-Christian world. Things that would have been unthinkable a generation ago have become “unquestionable” today. Everything God called sacred is up for grabs to be redefined or erased altogether*.
And the drumbeat is getting louder to give up God or remake God in our own image. But we can’t really ever give up God. We may replace Him with little “g” gods, but be clear, everyone will serve something or someone.
I live in the Bible Belt and it’s commonplace to see a church on every corner and interact with eager-to-profess-their-faith Christians. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen plaques or wooden signs in homes declaring, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15). Those signs are almost as prevalent as front doors around here.
However, when those words were spoken by Joshua 3,400 years ago, he was putting a stake in the ground and asking the Israelites – who had watched God part the Red Sea and rain down manna from Heaven – also to make a choice. Joshua was Moses’ assistant, and in those days, as today, there were many options for gods. Maybe we don’t have the rain god or the fire god; but we have government, self, materialism, science, sexuality, pride, and thousands of other wanna-be deities vying for our worship.
The power of choice is a sacred gift of God. And it is what makes Him different than any other god. He does not force Himself upon us but gives us the choice to follow Him.
I’m not suggesting that those who hang the “as for me and my house” verse in their homes are insincere. I am suggesting that we are now living in a post-Christian era and there is and will be more at stake culturally in choosing to follow the Lord. It’s easy to hang that sign in the Bible Belt, but what happens if/when the belt becomes unbuckled?
So, I’m asking you look at the culture we are living in today and where we seem to be heading at warp speed and ask yourself: Whom or what will I serve when everyone else is choosing, offering, and maybe even forcing other gods?
In the very near future, you may find it harder to surround yourself with people who willingly identify themselves as Christians. What happens if the majority become hostile toward God? Remember, if you just read the story leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, the crowd chose Barabbas (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:18-24; John:18:40**). Do not trust the crowd with your decisions about God. Choose whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
The New York Times, China, and every other god will become dust, but the name of the Lord endures forever (Psalm 135:13).
Dear Lord, You are everything that is sacred, holy, right, true, wonderful, and unending. You define love by who You are. We wouldn’t – we couldn’t – know love without You. I pray that You would strengthen us for the days ahead and the choices we will make. May we always choose You. Strengthen us to choose You. We love You, Lord, and long to be with You face-to-face. Maranatha! Amen.
*As an aside, because this could be another post altogether about parenting in this cultural climate…. I always encourage my teens to look at Genesis 1 and 2 to see God’s intended purpose for a particular cultural issue (marriage, sexuality, gender, family) and see what the culture is trying to wrestle away from the Creator of all those things.
**The account of the crowd choosing to release the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus is in all four gospels. All four writers must have been floored by this event. But it tells us so much about human nature.